CABINET has resolved to cancel the tender awarded to Austrian firm, Geiger International, for the US$2 billion dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
Briefing the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation in China during his recent visit, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said government had become impatient and lost hope in Geiger over the massive construction project for the country’s busiest highway that links South Africa, Zimbabwe and several other countries to the interior of the region. The highway is the region’s economic lifeline.
“In the area of infrastructure development, we need bidders for the dualisation and widening of the Beitbridge-Harare Chirundu Highway,” Mnangagwa said. “For two years we have had problems with Geiger, so cabinet has taken a decision to institute a legal process to terminate the deal as a result of non-performance.”
Geiger had won the tender under controversial circumstances, but since May 2016 nothing has been happening. It has been excuses after excuses.
We, at the Zimbabwe Independent, were not surprised at all. For we started blowing the whistle over the project through systematic reports on the dodgy companies involved and the unsustainable commercial and viability matrix of the project.
The first thing we said was that Geiger had no money. The second was, China Harbour Engineering Company (Chec) Ltd, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) which was involved, has a dodgy past after it was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices by its predecessor.
The debarment is still in force. “The World Bank today announced the debarment of, and all its subsidiaries, for fraudulent practices under Phase 1 of the Philippines National Roads Improvement and Management Project. Under the sanction, CCCC is ineligible to engage in any road and bridge projects financed by the World Bank Group until January 12 2017,” the bank stated in a press release dated July 29 2011.
Also in 2011, a Hindu publication reported the courts in Bangladesh ruled Chec paid bribes to the son of the ex-Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who was then sentenced in absentia to six years in prison.
“Rahman, the younger son of (ex-Prime Minister) Ms Zia, was accused of taking bribes from Chec and the Bangladesh subsidiary of Germany’s industrial giant Siemens AG for helping them win government contracts during his mother’s 2001-2006 premiership,” the publication wrote in a story dated June 23, 2011.
In 2012, the Jamaican government also conducted an audit into two major infrastructure projects, one of which was awarded to Chec. It said at the time “the report from the forensic auditor has unearthed wanton disregard for the conventions and procedures established by the Government of Jamaica for project implementation, administration and management.”
“These breaches of existing procurement guidelines have drained precious budgetary resources and undermined the very foundation of public institutional integrity,” it was quoted by the Caribbean Analysis.
Chec also negotiated with the Cayman Islands Premier to build and run a major port facility. According to the CayCompass publication in 2013, this deal was only stopped when the British government blew the whistle over the procurement arrangements.
In Uganda, Chec was implicated in the inflation of a railway construction project resulting in MPs demanding a corruption investigation into the 2012 award of a contract to the company to build a standard gauge railway in the eastern part of the country.
Legislators Theodore Ssekikubo accused President Yoweri Museveni’s government of corruption after it cancelled the initial tender to China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation who had offered to build the same railway at US$1,7 billion. Chec dramatically escalated the cost to US$8 billion.
Mnangagwa did well to cancel the Geiger tender, but more corrupt deals are still in place. They have to be also cancelled if government is serious about its new dispensation mantra and anti-corruption campaign.